(if this is in the wrong forum I apologize, but a search showed this may be the best spot)
I have what may appear an odd question. I have never installed Linux before, but I'm very impressed with the Ubuntu philosophy and this forum so I thought I'd give it a shot.
I have a Windows wifi network at home with three laptops: One is Windows 7 and the other two are running Vista. My wife uses the Windows 7 laptop and I am using one of the Vista boxes, with the other one currently running in a spare room. I'd like to use the Vista box as a NAS (for our photos, backups, etc) but I need to keep Vista on it for a variety of reasons. Just hooking up the USB drives to the Vista laptop and sharing them out isn't really the way I want to go, and besides it wouldn't let me install Linux...
What I'd like to do is install Ubuntu into VMWare Player or VirtualBox and have it share out the USB drives on the network. The drives are NTFS and I'd like to keep them that way, because I'd like the flexibility of being able to plug them directly into one of our laptops if need be, or access them from the Vista host OS. I understand I'll need to install SAMBA to get this shared out, and I found a tutorial for that so I can try that out.
I did download and play around with FreeNAS, but it has lots of issues with NTFS corruption whereas Linux has the NTFS driver for a few years now. I haven't tried an Openfiler appliance yet but that may be a plug-and-play option as well.
My questions are:
1. Has anybody done something like this? (Install Ubuntu as a Guest OS for a NAS on a Windows box in a Windows home network) If so do you have any advice on what I should/should not do, things to watch out for, etc?
2. NTFS read/write safety. I understand NTFS support is out-of-the-box now with Ubuntu, but searching even on Google I keep running into concerns of data corruption and stability. The most I've found so far is that it works reliably "for a few weeks" for data restoration or temprorary use. Is NTFS safe for read/write operations for the long-term, i.e. the foreseeable future? I can see changing to another filesystem when I have more experience, but for now I want "toes in the water" and this seems the easiest way. However, I don't want to risk data loss -- this will effectively be our backup location, and our media storage, with lots of (old, irreplaceable) photos that we just can't afford to lose. If this is a risk then I need to either consider another filesystem, or finding another approach.
3. On that note, what are the ramifications of switching to another filesystem? Any suggestions for a good filesystem that will work well in this type of environment?
Lots of questions, but I'd like to get this done right for future expandability. I can easily see adding on a bittorrent client and download manager, and even adding a LAMP-style development environment to play with... eventually.
I appreciate any help anyone can offer. Thanks!